Enthusiasm, optimism, and standing room only
By Richard J. Schneider
The Caboose at the back of the Chop House has become an institution. It is a fine place to meet up for beers, burgers, and brats before a Rockies game in the summer. In the winter, it stands ready for special gatherings, like the Colorado Film and Video Association's annual holiday blast.
This year, there was something added to the atmosphere during the event, something hopeful, something positive. Cautiously positive, but positive nonetheless.
There were the old faces. I am one of those. And there were the new faces.
Among the old faces, there was very little talk of Ye Days of Olde when the late Raymond Burr filmed Perry Mason in Colorado on a sound stage and around the state. Or when Father Dowling prowled the dark corners of Denver's underbelly. Or when Dick Van Dyke made the occasional appearance. No, there was very little talk of the days when Viacom ruled the streets of Denver.
Among the gray and graying hairs of the old faces, there was talk of the future. Jobs are still “spotty” as one audio type said. But they are there, or here – here in Colorado. Less travel to the airport to board a flight to who knows where to get work. There was talk of freezing fingers as scripts were monitored for the companies shooting national spots in Colorado. A lighting director told me he is working steadily. At least one person logged the best year ever. Another seasoned vet revealed much work on location scouting and production management.
Mostly the talk was of commercials, but as Colorado moves back onto the production radar screens, national spot production is once again becoming the bread and butter for the local industry.
With the expanded state production incentive – from ten to twenty percent – the phones are ringing again. Colorado is back on the list for out-of-state production companies, run more and more by accountants rather than artists, but that is reality.
Our film commissioner, Donald Zuckerman, told the holiday gathering that in the first third of the current fiscal year, the state has lined up incentives for three times as much business as the office did in the entire previous fiscal year. He said commercials producers are bringing their work back to Colorado because of the increased incentives. Zuckerman still wants to land a good-sized feature film project.
But even without the incentive calculation, location shooting for features is making its way back into the state. More than one holiday party-goer mentioned Johnny Depp, his unique rendition of Tonto, and the filming of scenes from the upcoming Lone Ranger movie – in Colorado.
In an earlier interview, Zuckerman mentioned that the big studios are at least calling Colorado to check things out. Prior to the incentive expansion, passed last year by the state legislature, Colorado was not even an afterthought as producers put together their location lists.
And for the future gray-hairs in the crowd, the younger faces? The talk was about that future, and their projects, some funded, some not. But there was little talk about the dwindling business, the dying industry, the shriveling jobs. It was all about this project, that project, a commercial shoot, funding possibilities. One of the younger faces is building animation sequences to display behind touring music acts out of Nashville. Another is developing animations for childrens' programming. Still more are busy with high-end cable channel promotions.
The energy was evident in the Caboose. I heard more talk about documentary and feature projects than ever before. Yes, even yours truly is even working on a few documentary proposals that are floating through the ranks of potential funding sources.
In short, the talk was more about the work here in Colorado rather than lamenting the need to travel all the time to earn a paycheck.
And, perhaps the most accurate indicator of the growing strength and increasing optimism of the state's production industry, the Caboose at the Chop House was packed, shoulder-to-shoulder, in the two-levels devoted to the CFVA party.
I have been to many events and outings in the Caboose. There never have been as many people in there as there was during the CFVA holiday party.
Here is a toast the new year, and to the revitalized Colorado production industry.
Long time Colorado producer and writer Richard J. Schneider writes novels and corporate scripts. His latest book, WATER: A Vic Bengston Investigation, is a murder mystery set in Colorado.